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Elizabeth George

Write AwayWhat Came Before He Shot HerCareless in RedTwo of the DeadliestThis Body of Death

e-interviewed by Hilary Williamson (April, 2010)

Elizabeth George was born Susan Elizabeth George in Warren, Ohio. She is a graduate of University of California in Riverside. She also attended California State University at Fullerton, where she was awarded a master's degree in Counseling/Psychology and an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Professionally, she started out as a teacher. She left education after thirteen and a half years when she sold her first novel, A Great Deliverance, to her longtime publisher Bantam Books.

She has won the Anthony Award, the Agatha Award, and France's Le Grand Prix de Literature Policiere for her novel A Great Deliverance, for which she was also nominated for the Edgar and the Macavity Awards. She has also been awarded Germany's MIMI for her novel Well-Schooled in Murder. Most of her novels have been filmed by for television by the BBC and have been broadcast in the US on PBS's Mystery.

In the latest in her hugely popular Inspector Lynley series, This Body of Death, the grim killing of a toddler by three youngsters frames another mystery - and after new acting Superintendent Isabelle Ardery is thrown in the deep end with this murder investigation, she asks Lynley to return from his leave and work on it with her.

Q: In Write Away, you talk about writing about places you can get passionate about - is that why you picked England's New Forest for This Body of Death?

A: I always pick my locations based on how they resonate with me and whether there are elements to them that suggest story. I'm passionate about England as a whole, but not every place in England works for a novel.

Q: It sounds like the wild ponies are a huge tourist attraction - did you have time to simply enjoy being around them or were you too focused on research for the book?

A: It's dangerous to approach the ponies although people do so. I wasn't there to be a tourist, although my preliminary visit to the New Forest was one in which I did a number of tourist-oriented actiivities to get a sense of the place.

Q: Given how authentic your characters and settings are, and the degree to which you must immerse yourself in British life to get that result, do you ever feel like you're hovering somewhere mid-Atlantic culturally?

A: No. I'm aware of being an American invading their turf. I'm deeply grateful for the British people who offer their time and their expertise to assist me when I'm creating a novel.

Q: I appreciated the subtle education on thatching This Body of Death gave me; is a thatched roof a high maintenance one, and would you like to live under one?

A: A thatched roof is just like any other roof except it's prettier. It's a thirty year roof requiring little maintenance. A thatched roof would look a little odd on my house on Whidbey Island, I'm afraid.

Q: Your mystery is framed by a very thoughtful analysis of the murder of a toddler by three children (close to what happened in real life in the terrible James Bulger case); is this analysis your own perspective on the event or was anything this rational written about the case?

A: A great deal has been written about this case, obviously. Some of the facts that I've used are similar to those surrounding the case of James Bulger. Others are manufactured. The Bulger crime was committed by two boys; my crime was committed by three boys. The essential backgrounds of the boys involved are somewhat the same. The crazy mechanics of the sentencing is similar.

Q: Did the sentencing fiasco (with the sentence being increased and decreased) that you describe in the fictional case really happen in the James Bulger case, with European Union intervention?

A: Yes, as indicated above.

Q: You share the musings of a schizophrenic character with readers in This Body of Death. Were these totally imagined, or based on any documentation of similar ramblings?

A: In all of my novels, I leap into the mind of the character myself. I don't base any interior details on something I've read.

Q: You've introduced an intriguing character - with plenty of flaws and a new relationship for Lynley - in Isabelle Ardery. Will she be around for a while?

A: That remains to be seen. She's in the novel I'm writing at the moment, but it's always difficult to project the series too far into the future, so I couldn't actually say.

Q: Lynley tells Isabelle that Barbara Havers has a 'Good mind and big heart' in this episode. Barbara has long been my favorite character, someone whose appearance works against her but who is very good at what she does - when you first introduced Barbara did you expect her to take off as much as she has?

A: Barbara was created as a foil for Lynley and as a way to do something called "prescribing the reader's symptom." I'm pleased that people like her so much, but I don't think any writer can expect any character to strike a chord with the reader.

Q: Can you tell fans anything about what you are working on next - in the Inspector Lynley series, a standalone like What Came Before He Shot Her or a collection like Two of the Deadliest?

A: I'm currently working on the next Lynley novel at the same time as I'm writing a Young Adult novel.
Find out more about Elizabeth George and her works, read a Biography, Interviews and Articles, Reviews, an FAQ, and thoughtful Essays on novels, the Inspector Lynley mysteries, people, and Election '08 at
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